Recently, A University of Washington professor brought Menu for the Future into her classroom, tasking students with meeting in small groups outside of class to delve into the complex world of sustainable food choices.  Here is what a few of them had to say in response to NWEI’s discussion course process.

“My fondest memory of food has got to be standing beside my mom, barely tall enough to see the large saute pan filled with a creamy white mixture, asking “why don’t you just put the cheese in all at once?”  The first Menu for the Future meeting  continued on this theme as we answered the question, “how do the foods you ate as a child compare with the ones you eat today?”  There was a varied response to this question: some ate better today, some ate the same, and some ate worse.  This led to discussions about why.  The reason for eating worse today was mostly about money and convenience, but also an overload of information (labels, media reports, educations).  They couldn’t afford to eat healthy, and didn’t have time to…  The first session has a lot of great articles that reduced defensiveness associated with all the food choices we have today:  local, organic, conventional etc.  And, it is hard to navigate amid warnings about metals in fish, fat content, high fructose corn syrup, and now the condition of conventional cows and chickens…

I learned in my ethics class about values, and they seem to be categorized by either human centered (and usually self-centered at that), biological (all living things), or eco-centric (all living things plus the air, water, and atmosphere).  Personally, I look at every living thing, as well as water and air as having intrinsic value – born within.  And we now have a good understanding of how anthropogenic (human action) disturbances affect all of these things.  Therefore, we have an obligation to respond with better than sustainable choices and actions (because sustainable by today’s standards is not really sustainable).

Yes, the Menu for the Future sessions have motivated me to change some of my actions.  It is painful to see that in the heart of the issue, is my own resistance to change despite my knowledge and personal values.  I believe this is the perfect example of acts and omissions…As individuals we have an obligation to respond, and therefore we should at the very least voice our issues with industrial agriculture by way of food choices.”

Another student reflects on getting housemates in on new food choices and habits:

“The information I learned from the readings has inspired me, and that inspiration has spilled onto my friends and family.  After learning about the environmental, health, and social implications of CAFO’s, I told my parents… Since then, they have found a grass fed free range beef supplier.

I also gained a new perspective on food.  Food had become something I would hurry up to finish as I’m running out the door… In the first reading, there was an article that spoke of the dinner table as an outlet for personal expression and a time to bond with family.  The article took me back to my childhood: mom, dad and I sitting around the table talking and laughing.  Them showing love and care for their child, and me growing and learning how to express myself and learn rules of society.  Can you pass the potatoes?  Yes, of course! Dinner time was a time to bond, slow down and reflect upon our lives… This article opened my eyes to what food has turned into for me, and I have since made changes.

I’ve made myself wake up 20 minutes early, to ensure that I have enough time to enjoy my breakfast.  I take my one day off and dedicate at least half of it to preparing salads and healthy foods to eat throughout the week.  The most special one, and the one my roommates love the most, is the Tuesday evening dinner that I’ve implemented…There has been more of a sense of love and warmth in our house since then.

A general consensus amongst the Menu for the Future group was that we are doing the best we can with regards to what we are given.  A majority of us feel that provided the options we have to choose from, we choose the best we can.  By best choices, I am talking about local, organic, and humane.  I also noted, that the students who were really able to make conscience decisions regarding food, had support.  My roommates have turned out to be very open to the things I’ve learned, and want to incorporate better choices into our lives.  It has turned out to be quite a process.  Going organic is not too hard, you can find organic produce and processed items at any Fred Meyer or Safeway.  But buying local is definitely a goal of mine.  This means once, if not twice a week running down to the local market for veggies and fruits.  When it comes to local grass- fed meats, they are just not worth the price.  But this has lead to us eating not as much meat, and pretty much no beef.  The changes that I’ve made that were inspired from the readings of Menu for the Future have allowed me to make a better impact on my health, my environment, and my local community…”